November 16th, 2010

Are you really brave enough to take a careful look at what kind of emotional toll your conversations are having on others? To answer this question, it could get a bit ugly. Some of us might have to don some pretty thick armor and gear up before having the courage to take a hard look at ourselves.

Most of us would like to think that our conversations are leaving an afterglow rather than an aftertaste. We want people to walk away from our conversations truly inspired. Want them leaving with a lightness of being that we helped facilitate.

I hope that is indeed the truth.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for all of us. I know sometimes I have created an aftermath. Look around you. What do you notice? What results are you and your team/family/network experiencing?


Do people come out of their cubicles to say “hi” as you pass by; or do they scuttle deeper into the recesses hoping that they won’t be seen?
Are you surrounded by friends, family and teammates who genuinely care about you; or have you discovered that, when you look around, your friendships and relationships with coworkers have dissolved, are non-existent?
Are you on track career-wise; or have promotions, advancements, raises passed you by?
When you really are honest with yourself, do you find that you are at the center of most, if not all, of the disappointments and failures? The common denominator being you?

If we’re not thoughtful about our conversations, something could creep in and wreak havoc. Gradually, then suddenly. Unfortunately, most of us don’t wake up until we are suddenly careening off the path that would lead us to success. We tend not to notice that something bad is happening until we are staring into the void, and it may be too late to get back on course.

There are times when we have to deliver messages that your partner will be less than thrilled to receive. It is absolutely essential that we have those conversations as well as the easy, fun ones. The way we deliver the message is crucial.

There is a difference between being thoughtful and being careful. Careful conversations can be absolutely failed conversations because they often postpone what needs to be said. We tiptoe around the real issues and they never, ever go away. And, believe you me, avoiding a conversation leaves a very definite negative wake!

A thoughtful conversation is intentional. It’s one where I have spent some time analyzing what the issue is, why it’s important, how I would like to resolve it, what my part has been, etc. — all my own perspective, of course. A thoughtful conversation includes space where I can learn from my partner what their perspective is, because I know that resolution is rooted in understanding.

During a thoughtful conversation, I am aware of what kind of wake I am leaving because it is important. It lingers. My intention is resolution, not dissolution. And if I find myself veering off–course, I will course–correct.

Our individual wakes are larger than we know, and no comment is trivial. So, ask yourself, who should I speak with to clean up anything that’s messy or off in some way? How do I leave people at the end of a conversation? Take responsibility for your emotional wake. You will notice a change in how you are received.

-Jennifer Brewer

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